Hospital Corpsman First Class James Benac spent 20 years in the Navy caring for the medical needs of his fellow Sailors and Marines on bases and ships all over the world. So when Benac became ill and needed assistance, it was only fitting that the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society would come to his aid.
In 2012, Benac received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. His doctor referred him to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for treatment. After weeks of traveling 90 minutes each way between Beaufort, where he lives, and Charleston for doctor visits, he began to feel the financial impact of paying for gas, food, and parking – in addition to the burden of his illness.
A longtime supporter of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society while on active duty, and a previous recipient of a short-term loan from the Society when his father was terminally ill, Benac knew he could turn to the Society for financial guidance.
“Initially, we just went for help with our budget,” Benac said, because the costs of commuting frequently to Charleston for medical care were mounting. Benac also realized that because of his illness, his family would be living only on his wife’s income for a while. He asked the financial counselor at the Society to help them develop a budget for that new reality.
Meanwhile, after his chemotherapy treatments were over, Benac’s doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant, and told him he would have to stay in Charleston—near the hospital—for about three months afterward while his body adjusted to the new bone marrow. After a successful bone marrow transplant, Benac remained in the hospital to recover, then found a place nearby that could accommodate him and a full-time caretaker.
“It was all one level so I wouldn’t have to climb stairs. My mom came from Alaska to help for several months, and my wife, who still had to work in Beaufort, came to visit as much as she could,” said Benac. To pay both their mortgage in Beaufort plus the cost of renting a place outside Charleston would’ve been too much, Benac said. “It would have depleted our savings and we wouldn’t have been able to make it. We were already dipping into savings to pay the medical bills.”
So Benac returned to NMCRS to ask if they could help him pay his temporary lodging and we agreed.
Now, a few months after the transplant, “I’m doing well,” Benac said. “The transplant was successful and went smoothly. I’m back in Beaufort, still recovering, and I visit Charleston once every couple of weeks. They’ll keep decreasing the visits depending on how I’m doing.”
Benac is grateful for the Society’s assistance. “If NMCRS hadn’t helped, we’d be very far in debt. We would’ve had to use credit cards, sell a car, maybe even sell our home. Because the Society was able to help us, we didn’t have to do any of that. NMCRS is a very good organization.”